Wherever you go, there you are

(NOTE: This was written Christmas night, around 5 p.m.)

(TYBEE ISLAND, Ga.) — Before I write anything else (this post gets painful for a tiny bit), let me say this. Merry Christmas. And if you don’t celebrate Christmas, happy belated Hanukkah or happy holidays. I hope that whoever you are, wherever you are, that your late December has been wonderful — whatever wonderful looks like to you.

OK, on to more sober matters. What happens when you don’t pay attention and don’t take care of yourself? Nothing good. I wish I hadn’t just paid $50 to remind myself of that.

About thirty minutes ago, I was driving my trailerless truck on some moss lined street in Savannah when I came to a stop behind a car at a red light. The light turned green, yet the car didn’t move. I waited 10 seconds. Nothing. Thirty seconds. Nothing. No, I didn’t honk, which I should have. I was in a slightly rough part of town, and I just assumed something weird was going on with the guy in front of me, and the wussy part of me didn’t want to engage. So I decided to back up and go around him, but true to my style, I didn’t look behind me. I simply reversed — right into an older black gentleman’s signature, military veteran license plate. The rest of his shiny, new car wasn’t touched, but the plate now had a hearty crease down the center.

I was apologetic. He was understanding but guarded. I offered him $25 for the damage; he insisted on $50. I fought it a little, trying to explain that I only had $80 to last me for the next two weeks (which is the truth), but he wouldn’t budge. Perhaps I wouldn’t have if I were he either. He told me that maybe I was going to have to pawn something in order to eat, and I was floored by that. The thought had never entered my middle class mind. Without thinking at all, I said, “I don’t do that stuff.” I wish I hadn’t said anything, but I was embarrassed at my lack of money, and felt this need to tell him that it’s temporary. That’s what I have to tell myself. My lack of funds stems from the collapse of the newspaper industry, sir. Really, really.

We drove to an ATM, and I handed him the cash. I drove off and started crying. I was so angry at myself, at my lack of attention to detail, at my propensity to make stupid mistakes. For a few minutes, I listened to a gentle CD my friend had made me and thought about everything I don’t like about myself, from the fact that I lose everything, to the reality that I, often times, say things I don’t do. The cab of my truck was heavy with negativity. One idea that kept running through my mind was that traveling is just like living anywhere else. The lessons are the same; it’s just that the backdrop that changes.

Fifteen miles later, I ended up here, on Tybee Island. It was instinct to come to this small, depopulated town. I keep on thinking that I should really move to a city some day, that I should be a someone in a big, urban way. But the truth is, when I’m looking for comfort, these are the kind of places I want. I like quaint, and I like small. Right now, I’m sitting on wet sand, and the ocean is a few hundred feet away from me. The sun just went down, but it’s not too cold. Hardly anyone else is on the beach, so I’m free to be that girl with the laptop occasionally reading her own writing out loud. This is what I like. Could I hack L.A. or New York? I just don’t know.

The white beach and frothy waves are beautiful, by the way. They’re calming me down, lulling me into a reminder of how completely lucky I am to be here. The fact that I am even able to take this trip is miraculous, really, so much so that I hate to ever start a post off with negativity. I don’t want to seem ungrateful or unaware of the magic around me. I don’t want to be a whiner. But I do have to tell it like it is. And the honest-to-God truth is that being confronted with your foibles always sucks. At least in the moment.

It’s getting impressively dark now, so I should be heading back to my car and driving back to my trailer. I’m glad I came out here. As much as my missteps and issues are running through my head, so are two words that were told to me by Steve, a Methodist pastor who has taken me in for the holidays along with his wife, Cindy. They are mind-bogglingly giving people, and you will hear so much more about them soon. Grace and forgiveness. Those are the words he told me. That’s the heart of his ministry, he said. I might not be a religious person myself, but those words touched me.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to receive those two things for Christmas? I know that’s a lofty idea, maybe even corny one, but it sounds nice. And the person I really want that from is myself. The notion of being able to accept my own faults is so idyllic that it makes me nearly verklempt. Sitting here, in the now complete dark, I dearly wish I could give myself that.

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